Big Growers Worried New “Guest” Workers Will Run Away

With immigration policy in the news, crops are rotting in the field, right on cue. From the Los Angeles Times:

Lack of immigration reform threatens California farmers

Growers have difficulty fielding adequate crews to harvest crops; Washington has a shot this year at providing meaningful relief.

Except for illegal immigrants, no group has more at stake in the national fight over immigration reform than California farmers.

“It doesn`t pay to plant a product if you can`t harvest it,” notes Mark Teixeira of Santa Maria, who says he had to let 22 acres of vegetables rot last year because he couldn`t find enough field hands to gather the crop. “That hurts.”

As security has tightened along the California-Mexican border, the flow of illegal immigrant labor into the nation`s most productive agriculture state has slowed significantly, farm interests say. …

Any time some demagogic politician bellows about rounding up all the illegal immigrants and shipping them back to their own country, it sends chills up farmers` spines.

Roughly two-thirds of the state`s crop workers “are not properly documented,” says Rayne Pegg, who heads the federal policy division of the California Farm Bureau.

John Carney at CNBC on the never-ending greed of big growers when it comes to immigration policy:

Remember when farm owners were loudly complaining to any available journalist that there was a nationwide farm labor crisis due to overly restrictive immigration policy?

Well, they`re still saying that. But now they are also worried that proposals to create a “path to citizenship” for immigrants currently living illegally in the United States might also create a farm labor shortage. As it turns out, the farm lobby is worried that once we legalize these immigrants, they won`t want to work on farms anymore.

There`s good reason for the farm lobby to worry about this. Once authorized to work in the U.S., many farm workers will no doubt seek employment in less onerous conditions. This happened after the last immigration amnesty in 1986. Unless a new wave of illegal immigration follows, farm owners would truly have to compete in the broader — legal — jobs market. Wages would have to rise or farms will have trouble attracting workers.

The farm lobby has a not-quite-novel solution to this situation: mandatory farm labor.

The Wall Street Journal explains:

The tight labor market explains why farm groups are pressing Congress to include, in any immigration overhaul, provisions that would ensure a steady flow of workers and prevent an exodus of newly legalized laborers from the sector. Under one possible scenario, agriculture workers would earn permanent legal residency by working a certain number of days on farms each year; those who worked longer would get a green card sooner.

Traditional methods have included chaining workers together, and, if they run, hunting them down with packs of baying bloodhounds. Perhaps a revival of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1857 could be slipped into the back pages of the “immigration reform” legislation.

Modern crop-rot-fever advocates are thinking of carrots as well as sticks:

Under one possible scenario, agriculture workers would earn permanent legal residency by working a certain number of days on farms each year; those who worked longer would get a green card sooner.

Let`s unpack that for a minute. Growers don`t want to pay enough wages or pay for enough accommodations (e.g., shade tarps for stoop laborers) to get Americans to appy for these jobs, and they don`t even want to pay enough to keep foreigners working at them. So, they want to bribe their foreign workers by having the rest of us give their workers legal permanent residency in return for accepting terrible wages from the growers.

Privatize profits, socialize costs.

Big growers importing stoop laborers over the generations explains a lot about California terrible NAEP test scores today. Nobody, even illegal immigrants, wants to do that job for long at the prices growers pay, so the illegals move on to other jobs in America, and the growers import new illegals. But, and here`s the thing that nobody is so supposed to ever think about: the illegals who came from Mexico to do stoop labor two generations ago are, to a depressing degree, the grandparents of today`s high school dropouts. We`re not seeing a rapid climb up the productivity and net taxpaying scale by lineages that started with illegal immigrant farmworkers. I`m sure there are a few exceptions here and there, but, on average, not many.

So, the growers are permanently changing the demographics of America to save themselves a few bucks in wages per hour and in, you know, not cropdusting herbicides on the workers, that kind of thing.